In Malawi, the majority of rural secondary schools have no access to electricity. Many of these schools have evening study sessions during which time they use kerosene lanterns to provide lighting. Due to the irregular availbility of kerosene and its high cost lighting is provided, at best, on a sporadic basis. In addition, the light provided by these lanterns is generally poor and the smoke from the lanterns is a health problem for many of the students. The limited study time results in the pass rate for the students on their national exams being extremely low. Details and comments from some of these schools are available at Malawi school comments

LED Africa's project is to provide solar powered lighting systems to these rural secondary schools in Malawi. The lighting system is installed in two classrooms at each of the schools. Each classroom lighting system consists of a solar panel, a battery with controller and eight LED lanterns. The LED Africa system provides enough lighting for approximately 50 students in each classroom for up to 3 hours per evening. The cost for the components and installation of the solar powered lighting system for a single classroom is $1300.

The solar panels, the batteries, and cables are purchased from suppliers within Malawi. The battery box and the stands for the LED lanterns are built by local Malawian carpenters. The lanterns are all assembled in Malawi by Malawians. After the system is installed, local Malawian staff are responsible for maintenance visits and replacing the batteries (required every 2 years). The schools pay an annual fee of approximately $60 per classroom which helps to cover these costs. This fee is typically less than what the schools had been paying for kerosene for their old lanterns.

Since 2009, LED Africa and our donors have installed the lighting systems in twenty rural secondary schools in Malawi. As a result the average pass rate at many of these schools on the National exams has risen substantially. In addition, for the first time in the history of some of these schools, students have qualified to go on to the National University.


A 50 W solar panel is needed for each classroom. As lighting is provided to two classrooms at each school, two such panels are required. In the photo, Eric Mlatho (right) and Dickson Sumani (left) are installing the panels on the roof of one of the schools.

During the daytime each solar panel is plugged into the outlet at the end of the battery box. This charges the 50 Ah battery that is inside the box. In the evening the battery box is moved into the classroom where up to 8 lanterns can be plugged into the outlets on the sides of the box.

A total of 8 lanterns are provided for each classroom. Each lantern contains 48 LED lights and consumes 5 W of electrical power. The total power consumption for each classroom is therefore 40 W. In the photo, Aleck Yenda, the field manager for LED Africa, is holding one of the lanterns.

Students put their desks together in the evening and place a lantern at the centre. Each lantern provides lights for 6 or so students. Therefore the 8 lanterns used in each classroom can provide lights for up to 50 students. The lanterns can be used for up to 3 hours each evening.

The wooden lantern stands and the battery box are built by the carpenters shown in the photo. The wiring of the lamps, the battery box, and the solar panels, are carried out by the LED Africa team consisting of Aleck Yenda, Eric Mlatho, Dickson Sumani, and Ray Penner.